Following my return to the running world, I receive this question a lot. Especially after the birth of two children and all the time that consumes. This lead me to consider the many reasons why we, more specifically, why I run like I do.
The first and obvious one for most people is the health benefits, losing weight, the conditioning, abiding by the "active living" mantra, blah, blah, blah. While all very true and perfectly valid reasons, there is a way to stay active without having your toe nails desinigrate in the process. Not to mention, whatever land mass I lose off my backend finds its way to my calves and in the process I end up sacrificing my love affair with my brown boots.
The second could be to set a great example for the kids who mirror mom and dad like miniature stalkers. Again, it is a good reason and definitely one I considered but at this stage, the hero worship experienced one day is just as often replaced with sad little faces who just want Mommy to stay home and play snakes and ladders instead of heading out to run.
It could be the camaraderie of the races, networking with like minded people, sharing in the joys and pains of the strangers that tend to form into groups during the long races and runs. I have played team sports all my life and would argue that although running does offer these things - it is at the same time one of the most solitary sports. Years of soccer gave me a great respect for the team dynamic and I see this as the one weakness in running.
So many other things to consider...the feeling of accomplishment, the chance to be a champion (for some), the mental clarity and break from our multi-media world, the knowledge that running leaves a small environmental footprint when compared to other sports and so on. I am confident that if you interview ten runners you will get a different answer each time. So how would I answer it?
I have given it a lot of thought and tonight after I got home from my 10k tempo run in which I managed to accomplish my fastest mile, I knew what it was. While sitting in my chair regaling my partially distracted husband with a minute by minute illustration of my run, I realized that my chest felt overflowing with oxygen. I recognized the feeling immediately because it was the same one I get after races, long runs or any really great run. I LOVE this feeling. It lasts for hours afterward and I described it to my husband as all my reasons for running filling into my chest. In reality it is probably just that my lungs are exhausted from being so overworked, but it doesn't matter. That is my reason, that is why I do it.
Whatever your reason is...it is worth it.